Noteworthy dates in the evolution of MTV

click to enlarge MTV launched with the music video for Buggles' "Video Killed The Radio Star" in 1981.
MTV launched with the music video for Buggles' "Video Killed The Radio Star" in 1981.

Aug. 1, 1981
MTV hits the airwaves with the video for Buggles’ “Video Killed The Radio Star.” Most of the country has no idea it’s happening.

Dec. 2, 1983
Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” video debuts, and MJ scares his “girlfriend” in the vid as well as lots of children at home years before accusations of pedophilia hit.

Sept. 14, 1984
The inaugural MTV Video Music Awards occurs, a celebration of the year’s best videos that continues to this day despite the channel rarely playing videos anymore. Video of the year goes to the Cars’ “You Might Think.” Madonna rolls around on the stage singing “Like A Virgin,” the first of a long history of memorable VMA performances.

July 13, 1985
MTV airs the Live Aid concert raising money for Ethiopian famine victims, covering simultaneous concerts in London and Philadelphia and establishing MTV as the place in the music media business.

July 3, 1986
The “Walk This Way” video debuts, featuring the unlikely combo of ’70s rockers Aerosmith and hip-hop pioneers Run-D.M.C., and gets constant play. Run-D.M.C. adds much needed cultural diversity to MTV, and Aerosmith launches a new (mostly terrible) phase in their career.

April 18, 1987
Headbanger’s Ball debuts, helping dozens of hair-farming Sunset Strippers to land record deals and hit songs (mostly power ballads) before so-called “alternative” music wiped hair metal from the channel, at least for a while.

August 6, 1988
Yo! MTV Raps debuts, marking the first time hip-hop had a dedicated space on the network.

Nov. 26, 1989
MTV Unplugged debuts, and suddenly the charts were filled with acoustic versions of songs by unexpected artists ranging from Poison to LL Cool J and from Nirvana to Jay-Z.

May 21, 1992
The Real World debuts, throwing a bunch of “artists” into a New York City loft and filming the results. Upside? Helps create reality TV (if you’re into that sort of thing). Downside? The Real World quickly devolves into a show on which folks just party instead of “getting real.”

Sept. 14, 1998
Total Request Live, aka TRL, debuts, and Disney-pop and boy bands soon take over the world thanks to the daily votes and crazed live audiences of teenagers. Carson Daly becomes a star despite being, as Jimmy Fallon famously portrayed on SNL, a “massive tool.”

Oct. 1, 2000
Jackass takes a bunch of boneheaded buddies willing to cause each other enormous pain to superstardom. Several awful Johnny Knoxville movies follow, because acting isn’t the same as having things shoved up your rectum.

March 5, 2002
The Osbournes debuts, showing bat-munching metalhead Ozzy Osbourne at home with his wife and kids. Decades of celebrity reality series follow. Yay?

Dec. 3, 2009
Jersey Shore debuts, laying the groundwork for pop culture worshipping morons like the Kardashians. Society has yet to recover.

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About The Author

Dan Nailen

Dan Nailen is the managing editor of the Inlander, where he oversees coverage of arts and culture. He's previously written and edited for The Salt Lake Tribune, Salt Lake City Weekly, Missoula Independent, Salt Lake Magazine, The Oregonian and KUER-FM. He grew up seeing the country in an Air Force family and studied...